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Tom Dillon

Age: 61

Occupation:training consultant

Number of Cruises: 27

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Serenade of the Seas

Sailing Date: May 8th, 2004

Itinerary: Ensenada to Honolulu

First, let me state that the Serenade of the Seas is probably the most beautiful ship I’ve ever sailed…bar none. RCCL’s Radiance class of ships is a real winner, and the beauty of the Serenade exemplifies the entire class. That said, though, I must admit that our experience on this superb ship was far less than what we had expected. As Diamond Members of Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society, my wife and I have become used to fairly good customer service aboard RCI ships. Such was not the case on our Serenade cruise.

We found the Serenade to be staffed by the worst crew we have ever encountered in almost 30 cruises. There were a few notable exceptions: the captain, the concierge, and our waitress. The remainder of the crew was generally rude, surly, uninformed, and unprofessional. This started as soon as we landed in San Diego on embarkation day. There were four RCCL ladies at the airport directing the baggage loading and transfer process. By asking the same question of each of the four, we received four totally different answers, and all were quite dogmatic. This continued aboard the ship. Ask a question of two or three RCI people at the guest relations desk, and we’d consistently receive two or three different answers. This happened both on the phone and in person. Seems like it’s categorically against the ship’s policy for one of their employees to simply say, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out and get back to you with the answer.” It’s much easier to just make up an answer, and it seems that’s what they continued to do.

We are not snobs, and we do not expect to be treated any better than with the treatment given any other guest. We do, however, expect decent customer service. Extraordinary customer service should, in my opinion, be give to every guest who purchases a cruise ticket. Unfortunately, the customer service we received was not even satisfactory, much less extraordinary……unless it could be called extraordinarily bad. A few examples follow.

After as many cruises as we’ve sailed with RCCL, one might think that they could get dining arrangements right…..but no. We were with a party of 6 (including children aged 5 and 7), and had requested a table for 6. We did this 6 months prior to sailing. Having had problems in this area on past cruises, we wrote a letter to the Crown and Anchor Society requesting that they get it right this time. Lo and behold, they didn’t. We again had to go through the hassle of meeting with an assistant head waiter to change our table. “I’m sorry, but the ship is full, and we can’t make any changes” seems to be their pre-recorded response to virtually every request. When we insisted, the guy reluctantly changed us to a table far removed from the main part of the dining room. When we told him that the “new” table was unacceptable, his attitude and response were both rude and unprofessional. By insisting upon speaking with a maitre ‘d, we did get a decent table for 6 the next day…but why should our vacation have to start out with this kind of stress? Shame on you, Royal Caribbean!

Our stateroom was uncomfortable warm, yet when we called maintenance about it, their response was that the room temperatures were set by computer, and that if our room was hot it was because we had left open the door to the veranda. Hogwash…..we had done no such thing. Our daughter’s room was a good 10 degrees farenheit cooler than our room, but the RCI maintenance staff refused to believe it. It was not until the concierge got involved that the situation was corrected.

Our daughter, her husband, and their two young children found upon arrival that their stateroom had been set up for two guests, not a family of four. Upon disembarkation 11 days later, after repeated requests for them, they still had not even seen life preservers for the two children. This is patently inexcusable.

For the first time since 9/11/2002, bridge tours were given on this ship. Seems the Cruise Director arranged for these to be conducted by his staff. No announcement about the tours was made, either – the information was dispensed by word-of-mouth only. Neither the Loyalty Ambassador nor the guest relations staff was notified about it by the cruise director or his staff. When we heard about it, we were told that the tours were already full, but that we could have our name put on a waiting list. I asked the Loyalty Ambassador if there would be a bridge tour for C&A diamond and platinum members, and he had no idea that there even WERE any bridge tours. I then asked guest relations to put our name on a waiting list for any additional bridge tours. Later that day, at the Diamond and Platinum C&A reception, the captain announced that there would be a special bridge tour for Diamond and Platinum members. My wife and I planned to attend, so we picked up tickets for the first tour. I neglected to ask guest relations to remove my name from the waiting list, and about an hour later, our stateroom phone rang. When I answered it, a member of the cruise director’s staff asked, very rudely, “Where ARE you? Why aren’t you HERE?” Seems to me that it should have been fairly obvious that I was in my stateroom, since I answered the person’s call to my stateroom. At any rate, the rudeness and tone of voice used by that person was totally unacceptable, and would have resulted in termination from jut about any major business in corporate America.

There were quite a few other, similar incidents, but these should suffice to exemplify the typical “customer service” afforded guests on this sailing.

The concierge, Maritza Moolman, was the singular bright star in an otherwise dark sky of shipboard staff members. We have nothing but the highest praise for this young lady. She ran her concierge lounge in a totally professional manner, and went out of her way to assist us with solving problems that should have been handled by other staff members. She personally delivered items to our staterooms, and even gave personal gifts to our grandchildren.

The meal we had at Portofino’s was outstanding, and the service was excellent. The meal we had at Chops was horrid. The steak and prime rib were improperly cooked and very tough, and the service was extremely slow.

Generally, food in the Windjammer was consistently better than the food in the dining room. There was nothing wrong with either the taste or the presentation of the dining room food – the problem was with the menu. I understand cost-cutting measures, but on 8 of the 11 nights aboard the ship, my wife and I had difficulty finding something on the menu that we wanted to eat. That had never happened to such a degree on any of our previous RCCL cruises.

The only recommendations I could make for the Windjammer would be to (1) increase the number of people making omelets from two to four (The omelet lines were interminably long much of the time) to (2) clean the dirty tables faster and more often, and to (3) restrict the Windjammer tables to diners during dining hours. There were many times when we had to walk completely around the Windjammer two or three times to find a table…..while many tables for 4 or 6 were occupied by solitary people who were not eating, but were just reading or napping.

For years, Royal Caribbean has been my clear favorite of the five cruise lines I’ve used. Unfortunately, though, on the basis of our experiences during this cruise, Royal Caribbean’s standards seem to have been lowered to the point that I’m not sure I want to sail on their ships again…..and that’s a shame.

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